"You'll Always Get The Truth"

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Photo: John Myers

Until now, Jerry Brown was being criticized for not saying enough. Today, he had to apologize for saying too much. Such is the nature of major political campaigns, especially now when anyone can post video and audio online anytime they choose.

At his campaign HQ in Oakland this afternoon, the Democratic nominee issued a mea culpa for a weekend off-hand remark about the former president -- and head of the Democratic Party -- Bill Clinton.

The comment, a not-so-subtle reference to Clinton's infamous statements that ultimately led to his impeachment, hit the big time this morning when reposted by Time Magazine's Mark Halperin. And it should be noted that what set Brown off was Meg Whitman's latest TV ad using Clinton (via a 1992 presidential primary debate) to hit Brown on his record as governor.

"I've made my share of mistakes, and my inappropriate joke about President Clinton is one of them," said Brown. "But from me you'll always get the truth."

But the fact that Brown, who until now has steadfastly refused to enter the fray of the now 24-hour news cycle, even made the statement seems to be a realization that the story was far from running its course... and the candidate clearly wanted to nip it in the bud.

The incident also will no doubt reignite debate among political junkies about how a candidate who so effectively mastered the political world decades ago is handling the viral internet world of 2010 politics. From the 'Macaca' video of 2006 to President Barack Obama's 2008 San Francisco 'cling to their guns' comment and onward, candidates are being warned to make perfectly sure that everything they say is said with full knowledge that someone, somewhere, is recording it.

Of course, Brown attempted today to refocus the narrative on Whitman's TV ad, one that drew a lot of chatter over the weekend... including a clarification by the original reporter whose story on Brown's gubernatorial tax record was quoted in the 1992 TV event.

But again, the lingering question may be whether this episode leads Brown to change his freewheeling ways. And it's worth noting that the press corps (as though we were one collective body) likes having it both ways on these matters -- pointing out when candidates speak their minds, but then also criticizing when they say nothing at all. Maybe most intriguing for Californians who follow politics is that the top advisers to Whitman used to work for another candidate who often got into trouble for speaking off the cuff: Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The adage back then was 'let Arnold be Arnold.' One wonders whether those advisers feel the same way now that the candidate in question is on the other side of the ballot.

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About John Myers

John Myers is senior editor of KQED's new multimedia California Politics & Government Desk.  He has covered California politics for most of the past two decades -- serving previously as Sacramento bureau chief for KQED News and, most recently, as political editor for KXTV News10 (ABC) in Sacramento. He moderated the only gubernatorial debate of 2014, and was named one of the nation's top statehouse reporters by The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter @johnmyers.
  • http://www.nxeenergy.com David Taylor

    To the Voters of California

    As a Republican that is in the process of setting up a 3500 member employee owned start up Renewable Energy Company in the former NUMMI plant in Fremont makes me very concerned as to who will be the next Governor of California. Knowing that Jerry Brown has all the negative baggage that one could point out as to why he should not be elected. But on the other hand Meg Whitman appears to be a power hungry ego maniac
    that could spell disaster to California and our startup company and the 3500 former NUMMI Team Members that we are in the process of uniting in our employee owned company.

    My conclusion is that Jerry Brown with all his negative baggage would be the best candidate to be elected to the Governorship. California needs all the assistance possible from President Obama and the Congress. Meg Whitman would not be in position to get this assistance that California needs.

    As a Republican I encourage all Californians to vote for Jerry Brown that will support the industries of California that will pull us out of this recession and double digit unemployment.

    We know Jerry Brown with all of his warts, and we do not know all the warts that Meg Whitman has and that she has spent millions to cover up.

    David Taylor